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Libya 38, Gadhafi 24, U.s. 20, Us 17, Clinton 14, Benghazi 12, Egypt 11, United States 10, Afghanistan 8, Nato 6, Savannah 6, Obama 5, Tripoli 4, Duracell 4, Bob Woodward 4, Ted 3, Ted Koppel 3, Iraq 3, Yemen 3, Syria 3,
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  MSNBC    Meet the Press    News/Business. A moderator  
   interviews a leading public figure. (CC)  

    March 28, 2011
    4:00 - 5:00am EDT  

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this sunday, the allied strike against libya stretches into its second week as the u.s. seeks to limit its role. >> responsibility for this operation is being transferred from the united states to our nato allies and partners. >> but as criticism from congress mounts, many questions remain. what happens if gadhafi clings to power? what are the limits of the u.s.'s role if a civil war gets worse? and how does a military campaign relate to our overall strategy in the mideast? this morning, a special joint interview, with us, the secretary of state hillary clinton and secretary of defense
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robert gates. then -- the president faces critics from both sides of the aisle. did he overstep his constitutional authority by using force without consulting congress. my interview this morning with republican from indiana senator richard lugar. finally, analysis of the administration's handling of the crisis in libya is our fragile economic recovery continues and our military is stretched thin by two other wars, did the president make the case to the american people that libya is worth the cost and risk? with us, associate editor for "the washington post" and author of "obama's wars," bob woodward. contributing analyst for the bbc, ted tom ricks, and nbc news white house bbc, ted tom ricks, and nbc news white house correspondent savannah guthrie.
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captions paid for by nbc-universal television good morning. the president will address the nation about u.s. involvement in libya tomorrow night in response to calls for him to clarify the u.s. mission there. meanwhile, day nine of u.s. and allied air strikes libya as rebel forces advance and manage to take control of the stra teen ick city of auj taub area in eastern libya, a celebration by rebels there yesterday. opposition forces have now made their way from benghazi, their strojhold, to the port town of brega, overtaking gadhafi forces there, both victories a clearer sign the air strikes are helping rebels advance. let's go to ajdabiya where richard angle joins us this morning for the very latest. richard, what does that advance by the rebels, who are behind you in this shot, say ultimately about the u.s. and allied mission in libya?
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>> reporter: it means that so far the allied air strikes have allowed the rebels to advance. it they've moved their front lines about 50 miles forward in the last 24 hours or so. and behind me it's clear to see why. western air strikes hadestroyedy our count at least 20 tanks and armored vehicles at least in this area alone. the rebels came through, gadhafi's forces in this area had been destroyed, and now they are pushing even further west. they are likely to get past brega and get to ras lanuf and get to sirte before they find the next part of gadhafi's troops truly dug in and again in need of western help to push this advance, which the rebels hope will take them to tripoli. >> quickly, richard, what happens if this limited mission actually ends? where zr it leave the rebels and their cause and ultimately gadhafi? >> reporter: it is now at a stage where the air strikes are no longer just about defending the people of benghazi.
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we're considerably far away from there. the air strikes have zoied all the forces that were tlenting the city. now the air strikes are helping an advance by the rebels. if the air strikes stop, then the rebels will no longer be able to advance and this could become a long, drawn-out stalemate. >> in ajdabiya, richard engel with the very latest. as part of the president's effort to more explain the mission in libya, hillary clinton and robert gates sat down here with me yesterday, secretary gates, secretary clinton, welcome back to "meet the press." the president says this was days, not weeks, we're into the second week. has the mission been accomplished? >> i think the no-fly zone aspect has been accomplished. we haven't seen any of his planes fly since it started. i think we've also been successful on the humanitarian side. we have prevented his forces from going to benghazi and we
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have taken his armor. so i think we have to a very large extent completed the military mission in terms of getting it set up. now the no-fly zone and even the humanitarian side will have to be sustained for some period of time. >> is gadhafi capable of routing the rebels? >> at this point, it appears that his efforts have been stopped. i think if you were to look at where we were just a couple of weeks ago, he was clearly on his way to benghazi. he was intending, by his own words, to show no mercy, to go house to house. i think we prevented a great humanitarian disaster, which is always hard to point to something that didn't happen, but i believe we did. and now we're beginning to see, because of the good work of the coalition, his troops begin to turn back toward the west and to see the opposition begin to he reclaim ground they had lost.
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>> that said, secretary gates, would the u.s. supply arms to the rebels? >> no decision has been made about that at this point. the security council resolution would permit it, the second resolution, 1973, would permit it. but no decisions have been made by our government about that. >> but does this administration want to see the rebels prevail and overtake gadhafi? >> i think the president's policy is that it's time for gadhafi to go. that's not part of our military mission, which has been very limited and very strictly defined. >> how is that going to happen? secretary clinton you said this week you thought you were picking up signals that he wanted to get out of his own accord. >> well, there are many different aspects to pursuing. as bob has said, the military mission has gone very well. it only started just eight days ago so it has been remarkably well coordinated and focused and now nato will take command and control over it. at the same time, we are
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pursuing really strict economic sanctions on him and people close to him. we have a political effort under way. the african union just called for a transition to democracy. the arab league, the others of us who are supporting this endeavor, are going to be meeting in london on tuesday to fcita sh transition of him leaving power. >> but you said this week you thought there were indications he was looking to get out. is that true? >> woel, people around him. we have a lot of evidence that people around him are reaching out. now, so far they're saying, you're misunderstanding us, come talk to us. the secretary-general of the united nations has appointed a special envoy. wi he will go to benghazi and tripoli in the next few days so we will provide a very clear message to gadhafi. but we're also sending a message to people around him, do you really want to be a pariah?
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do you really want to end up in the international criminal court? now is your time to get out of this and to help change the direction. >> bottom line, the president wants him to go, but the president will not take him out himself. >> certainly not militarily. >> so it would have to be other means. >> yes. as i said, we have things in our tool box in addition to hammers. secretary clinton has just talked about a number of them, and don't underestimate what hillary just said of the people around him looking at what's happening and the international view of this place and when's the time to turn and go to the other side? so i think one should not underestimate the possibility of the regime itself cracking. >> i want to talk about some of the congressional criticism. speaker of the house boehner issued a letter with questions, some of which were deemed legitimate questions by the white house. here is a portion of it --
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because of the conflicting message from the administration and coalition partners, there's a lack of clarity over the objectives this mission, what our national security interests are, the american people deserve answers to these questions and all of these concerns point to a fundamental question, what is your benchmark for success in libya? >> well, i think it's perfectly legitimate for members of congress and the public to ask questions. the president is going to address the nation monday night. a lot of these questions will be answered. but i would just make a couple of points. first, on march 1st, the united states senate passed a resolution calling for a no-fly zone. that was a bipartisan resolution. there were a number of people in the house, including leadership in both the republican and democratic parties, who were demanding that action be taken. the international community came together and in an unprecedented action, the arab league called on the security council doning
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what they did. the united states and other countries were in a position to enforce it. if you look at the coverage on al jazeera, listen to the statements in the opposition in libya, there is a great deal of appreciation for what we and others have done in order to stop gadhafi on his mission of merciless oppression. so this was an international effort that the united states was a part of. i certainly believe it was within the president's constitutional authority to do so. it is going according to the plan that the president laid out. the united states will be transitioning to a nato command and control, and then we will be joining with the rest of the international community. and if you look at the region, can you imagine, david, if we were sitting here and gadhafi had gotten to benghazi and in a city of 700,000 people had massacred tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands had fled over the border, destabilizing egypt, everybody would be
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saying, why didn't the president do something? >> can i ask you about -- >> these are difficult choices. >> did speaker boehner raise any objections when he was briefed prior to the mission? >> i know there was a constant flow of information both to members and staff and of course the president had a conference with some members in person, others, many others, including the speaker on the phone. but we have no objection to anybody asking questions. but i think it's important to look at the context in which this is occurring. and the fact that we have moved so rapidly to have this kind of international action taken, answers in great measure that legitimate concerns of the people of libya, and now, of course, we're going to take it day by day. that's what you do in a situation like this. >> the military is stretched pretty thin. look at this map to show what our commitments are around the globe. in iraq, of course, we have 47,000 troops, in afghanistan,
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100,000 strong, and now this additional commitment of u.s. troops, not troops but u.s. assets, in libya. how does the president, speaking to the nation monday night, maintain a sense of national purpose here at a time when we're so stretched? >> actually, your list was incomplete. we have a substantial military commitment and humanitarian assistance disaster relief in japan as well, largely using naval forces. the air forces that we are using for the most part and the air forces in particular we're using in libya are forces normally stationed in europe in any event. the reality is, though, beginning this week or within the next week or so, we will begin to diminish the commitment of resources that we have committed to this. we knew the president's plan at the beginning, we would go in heavy at first because we had the capacity to do it in terms of suppressing the air defenses and so on. but then the idea was that, over time, the coalition would assume a larger and larger proportion
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of the burden. this was the conversation he had with foreign leaders when this whole thing was coming together, and so we see our commitment of resources actually beginning to -- >> how long does the no-fly zone last? >> first of all, nobody knows the answer to that question, but once the air defenses have been suppressed, what it takes to sustain the no-fly zone is substantially less than what it takes to establish. >> still on the military, let me ask this. what in things don't go as well? ha is our contingency plan, what is the u.s. commitment if things get worse in libya? if gadhafi stays, if there's an entrenched civil war? >> the president made clear there will be no american troops on the ground in libya. he's made that quite definite. our air power has significantly degraded his armor capabilities, his ability to use his armor against cities like benghazi. we see them beginning to move back to the west, retreating.
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so, you know, this eventually is going to have to be settled by the libyans themselves. perhaps the u.n. can mediate or whatever. in terms of the military commitment, the president has put very strict limitations in terms of what we're prepared to do. >> i want to ask you about the receipt of the region, secretary clinton. because there's so much in happening. first, as we look at the broader middle east, we look at syria. deadly protests because of a government crackdown that have been occurring over the past few days. is it the position of the government that we would like to see the assad regime fall? >> what we have said is what we've said throughout this extraordinary period of transformation in north africa and the middle east. we want to see no violence. we want to see peaceful protests that enable people to express people to express their universal human rights and we want to see economic and political reform. that's what we called on in
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syr syria and other governments aacross the region to do. >> what about saudi arabia? secretary gates, back to the map, the king is qui upset with the president. the relationship has ruptured to the point that he he has sent troops into bahrain. he would not see both of you when you were in the region. what are we doing to fix a represent tured relationship with perhaps our most important partner in the region as far as oil and other matters? >> fist ever all, i don't think the relationship is ruptured. we have a very strong relationship with saudi arabia. i think that the saudis see all of this turbulence in this region with some disquiet. they're very concerned about iran. they believe that iran will be able to take advantage of the situation in various of these countries and those are their concerns. and we share some of those concerns, but i think it's a great exaggeration to say this relationship is ruptured. i intend to visit the region in the near term and hope and intend to see the king.
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so i think -- we have a he very strong relationship. we have a very strong military to military relationship. as you know, the saudis just made one of the largest purchases of american weapons in their history. so i think it's overdrawn. do we have some differences of view? absolutely. but that's -- that happens between friends all the time. >> back to the map, in addition to yemen i want to actually focus on egypt. still the strategic cornerstone, yemen of course important. but it is in egypt that is the strategic cornerstone of this region. what are we doing, secretary clinton, at this point to try to assist the young, secular movement that wants to find a way toward leadership that may be out manned now by the muslim brotherhood and mubarak's only party. >> david, first, we have historically done quite a bit in reaching out to the very young people you're referring to. when i was just in egypt, i met with a number of those who had been leaders of the activities in tahrir square and that were
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hoping to translate that protest into political action. a lot of them had been in american government-sponsored programs, been on visitation programs to the united states. and we are continuing to reach out and work with them and to try to 0 provide support to them. it is hard moving from being in the forefront of a movement to being part of a political process. it's hard in any country. but we're going to stand with them and make sure that at least in so far as we're able to they get the support they need. at the same time, though, we're also working with the interrim government in egypt, both bob and i when we were recently in egypt met with government officials and met with the military officials who are for the time being running the government. we want to assist them on the economic reform efforts that they're undertaking. now, ultimately this is up to the egyptians. they're going to have to make these decisions, but we've offered our advice and we're offering aid where appropriate. >> secretary gates, is libya in
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our vital interest as a country? >> no, i don't think it's vital interest for the united states. but we clearly have interest there and it's a pat of the region that's of vital interest to the united states. >> i think a lot of people would hear that and say, that's strike being not in our vital interest and yet we're committing resources. >> but it wouldn't be fair as to what bob just said. did libya attack us? no, they did not attack us. do they have a very critical role in this region? and do they neighbor two countries you just mentioned one, egypt, the other tunisia, that are going through these extraordinary transformations and cannot afford to be destabilized by conflict on their borders? he yes. do they have a major influence on europe because of everything from oil to immigration? david, that raises a very important point because you showed on the map just a minute ago afghanistan. you know, he we asked our allies, our nato allies, to go into afghanistan with us ten
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years ago. they have been there and a lot of them have been there, despite the fact they were not attacked. the attack came on us, as we all tragically remember. they stuck with us. when it comes to libya, we started hearing from the uk, france, italy, other of our nato allies, this was in the ones who went to the security council and said, we have to act because otherwise we're seeing a really violent upheaval with a man who has a history of unpredictable violent acts right on our doorstep. so let's be fair here. they didn't attack us, but what they were doing and gadhafi's history and the potential for the disruption and instability was very much in our interest as bob said, and seen by our european friends and our arab partners as very vital to their interests. >> before you go, secretary clinton, i want to change the topic.
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a dear friend and supporter of yours, geraldine fer rar row woman to be on the ticket with walter mondale. she was asked a question at the time. i want to show you the exchange and get you to react to it. >> ms. fer ar row, could you push the nuclear button? >> i can do whatever is necessary in order to protect the security of this country. >> including that. >> yeah. even. >> do you think -- >> that's a double-edged sword so that -- i don't know. i don't know if i were not a woman, if i would be judged in the same way in my candidacy, whether or not i'd be asked questions like, are you strong enough to push the button, that type -- >> times have changed. she changed them and you of course changed them, tooshgs for women in politics. what's your reaction to seeing that and your reaction to her death? >> it just makes me smile
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breaker. she was everything that now commentators will say an icon, a legend. but she was down to earth. she was just as personal a friend as you could have. she was one of my fiercest defenders and most staunch supporters. she had a great family that she cherished and stood up for in every way. and she went before many women to a political height that is very difficult still and she navigated it with great grace and grit. and i think we owe her a lot. i'll certainly think about her every day and thanks for asking me to reflect on it briefly because she was a wonderful person. >> thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> thank you. we are joined now by the ranking member of the senate foreign releases committee,
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republican senator richard lugar of indiana. welcome to "meet the press," senator. >> thank you. >> you've heard from secretary gates and clinton. i wonder, are you satisfied with the progress in libya and with their explanation of our mission? >> well, i was startled to hear secretary gates say that libya was not of vital interest, secretary clinton then came in with the fact that our european allies are very disturbed about the situation and of course we have justified military action as a humanitarian action to stop the shooting of civilians. i would just start by saying, before our nation goes to war or has military action, there must be a plan, there must be objectives, the endgame, what we want to achieve. and then at least some means as to how that's going to occur. that has not happened as yet, and the president has said we've had success because gadhafi would have murdered many people in benghazi. but the fact is that there was fighting in benghazi because the so-called rebels, the other
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people that are not gadhafi supporters, started a civil war in libya, following civil wars in tunisia and egypt. and the facts are that that civil war was proceeding and in many cases the rebels seemed to be winning except when they got to benghazi, or in tripoli. so at this point we then adopt a no-fly zone with the thought of knocking out gadhafi's aircraft, then the ground zone situation, where we knocked out the tanks and trucks. having done all of that, the fact is the rebels, as you pointed out in ajdabiya have come back, so on the eastern side of libya, the cities all seem to be lined up with the rebels. on the western side in misrata, the gadhafi people are trying to take that so they at least have all of that side of the country. and in the meanwhile, we're saying that we're going to back off of the no-fly zone or talk a
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much less of a role there, leaving that to the europeans. and it simply leaves the whole situation up for grabs in which there's hopefulness, maybe, that gadhafi will leave or something bad will happen to him or, in fact, that somehow these persons who are the rebels who we really don't know who have no particular government are going to form something that is more friendly to us or to the europe eeps. >> let me ask you to unpack that a little bit. if it's not in our vital interest, bottom line, should we not be involved? >> i think there should have been a plan for what our objectives were, debate as to why this was in our vital interest before we committed military forces to libya. >> it's interesting that the press secretary for the president jay carney said this was not in fact a war, it was a time limited scope limited military action. do you think that's a bit of dancing there? and is the president, when he speaks to the nation, having to
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be more forthright about what we're engaged in? >> well, when i had the opportunity to ask the president if during this telephonic conference that secretary clinton has mentioned, he justified action as a humanitarian gesture, that would have been unconscionable to stand by while gadhafi murdered people in benghazi. as a result, these people were saved and now we move backward in terms of our obligations in the situation. an event no boots on the ground, the president reiterated that. so this means in'ses ens the libyans are still going to have to solve their civil war. we've pretty well knocked out gadhafi's air force and many tanks, but the fact is the country is still very divide dwooided into the east and west cities. >> what is our commitment to that civil war? >> well, i don't believe we should be eenl gaugngaged in li civil war. i think the libyans are going to
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have to work that out. the fact is we don't have particular ties with anybody in the libyan picture, and we will have to at least adjust to whatever the outcome may be. but as far as we're concerned, as secretary gates said, it is not of vital interest to the united states, american interests are not at stake, and we clearly have already done much more than our part with regard to the no-fly zone, with regard to european friends. >> will it require more funds from the government for this military operation? >> of course. and that's what i stated from the beginning. there has to be objectives and a plan and an agreement that we're prepared to devote military forces and also the money. it makes no sense in the front room where in congress we are debating seemingly every day the deficits, the debt ceiling situation coming up, the hug ecom pbls vbu in t bk room we are spending had money on a military
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situation in libya, estimates are that about $1 billion has already been spent on an undeclared war in libya, some would say only hundreds of millions, and that that will diminish in the days ahead. but what knows how long this goes on? and furthermore, who has really budgeted for libya at all? i have not really heard the administration come forward saying that we're going to have to devote these funds, folks, and therefore it's something else we'll have to go or it simply adds to the deficit. >> let me ask you, finally, can the u.s. and its allies accomplish the mission that they've set out to achieve if moammar gadhafi remains in power? >> probably not. in large part, since we have taken the position thatoma gaasnspiay vi d ctoran we have now indicated, the president said, that he he must go, he lacks legitimacy and so forth, others have made the same statement, but if in fact he stays, is successful with his forces in
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subduing the rebels, then we are going to have to deal with gadhafi and whatever we have there. i think there is sort of a vague hope still animated by secretary clinton that perhaps he may be thinking about where he might go or with his money and his family and so forth who might accept him in the world and sort of slip out of the picture. but even if he did, the forces that are allied with him may very well still prevail in the civil war. >> we will leave it there. senator lugar, thank you very much. coming up, the obama doctrine. is the president's handling of the conflict in lya sgn aew e iamic fei policy? how will it affect his efforts to affect the deficit and create jobs as well as his reelection? our roundtable weighs in. bob woodward, ted koppel and savannah guthrie. [ female announcer ] can you define radiant skin? glowing.
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we are back joined by our roundtable, nbc news white house correspondent sa vag na guthrie, senior fellow at contributing editor to foreign policy magazine tom republicanicks, au "obama's wars," bob woodward and contributing analyst to the bbc, ted koppel. welcome to all of you. and, ted, welcome.
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pleasure to have you here. i want to start with you. we've just heard this discussion, particularly the secretary of defense, saying that this campaign in libya l a. pretty high stakes for the president. >> yes. and i don't think he'll be able to ask the central question. you asked the right question in talking about the national interest. the question hasn't yet been answered as to why it is that libya, of all countries in the region, has won the humanitarian defense sweepstakes of 2011. we have seen many countries, both in the region and throughout the world, where civilian loss and civilian suffering has been much, much greater, congo, we've lost about 5 million people, sudan 2 million to 3 million people, never any talk of military intervention. take a look at what's going on in the ivory coast today. secretary clinton was talking about the number of refugee
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that's might have come out of a gadhafi attack on benghazi. we've got 700,000 refugees in the ivory coast right now, close to 1 million, in fact. why, why libya? hasn't been answered. >> do you think, savannah, that the president will make the case that in many ways this was a message being sent to the rest of the arab world, particularly the persian gulf, they felt they had to take a stand here? >> i think they felt they had to make a stand because you have to put this in the context of the arab spring. when you look at libya, you have to be looking at what happens -- what's going on with its neighbors. in fact, this week in south america, i asked the president point-blank, what is the national security interest of the u.s. in libya? and he cited egypt, tunisia, unrest in the region. the president is going to have to put it in that context. what's so fascinating about his rhetoric, though, is while he's saying the u.s. will take this
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military, we need to do this, you can see the subtext clearly ca just, our cause is righteous, we'll see it through to the end. instead you hear him saying, we'll be in and out. it's limited in duration. we won't be the ones enforcing the no-fly zone. won't be our ships enforcing the arms embargo. you see that reluctance shot through his rhetoric. >> tom ricks, we began the discussion this morning, richard engel reporting on the rebel, they're getting closer to tripoli. then what that's when we leave? if gadhafi stays, can we really say this is mission accomplished? >> i think they'll say we can. all obama is saying is give war a chance. not all war. all we did was kick the door down, let the brits and french and others do it. and i think his notion is we're going to be out of there long before this is resolved. that's the hope. that's the best -- >> and we don't have to stick around. there is this receiticencretice
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woodward, this caught my eye in the financial times. this is it a president would could still run in 2012 on the grounds that he got out of two wars. he's not going to do things to distract us from afghanistan and that's totally consistent with what i call the obama doctrine, that other countries are going to have to do more in a more diverse international order. >> but this is war. uf can you can't extinguish our knowledge about war. this idea that you can have a limited video game, it just isn't the way it is. no one knows more about this than tom ricks. and the question is, what's going on here and the larger picture is what savannah is calling the arab spring. i'm not sure whether it's unrest, an uphaeflal, whether these are revolutions. but in a 5,000-mile area you have to kind of put all of this together, the president has a
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mammoth management problem. there is deep unhappiness, as there should be, about, do we know what's going on in these countries? in the intelligence agencies are scrambling because they covered the leaders and not the people who with were the revolutionaries or the rebels or the people involved in this upheaval. >> ted comb, part of the issue here, as secretary gates said in a different context, we're in a dark territory here. we don't know how things are going to turn out in libya, in egypt, in yemen, in syria. throughout the middle east. >> look, you make a couple of good points. first of all, syria. remember that the current president's father back in 1982 when he had a little rebellion on his hands in the city of hamaa, wiped them out. 80,000 people were killed in hamaa. what do we know about the rebels in libya th? one of the few things we know is
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that we know from that legion of libya a disproportionately high number of young men who joined al qaeda in iraq. are these the folks we want to associate ourselves with? we know for a fact that gadhafi is a bad guy, but we know very little about the people who seek to replace them. >> is that a central question here? >> i think it is a concern, are we turning libya over to islamic extremists? but i don't think all isla is violent islamic extreme i. who want to attack the united states. i think what you're seeing now is something very different, which is some of those islamist extremists are cheering the united states. an f-15 went down over eastern libya and one of the two-member crew was embraced by the crowd. they lined up to shake his hand. it astonished me to think we are bombing an arab state and the people on the ground are cheering for that. >> there's -- one of the challenges it seems to me, savannah, for the precedes is to
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articulate that we may have a new approach to foreign policy in the post-bush era but we're still the indispensable nation when it comes to many things in that part of the world. >> there's a paradox because it seems like the add minute straipgs wanted it both ways, saying early on, we don't want to make this a u.s. versus libya dynam dynamic, feed into that. the u.s. was among the last to call for gadhafi's ouster. openly wringing its hands over the prospect of a no-fly zone for three weeks. then suddenly about a tuesday two weeks ago had a total turnaround, a change of heart once the arab league said, we want a no-fly zone. i think there are mixed messages coming out of the administration. it may simply be part of the revolution inside the administration. it seems the president has sided with what some call the idealist wing as opposed to the old
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hands, and the president is obviously not happy with his set of choices. one person told me in a meeting he called this military action in libya a terd sandwich. but he was quoting an aide who likes that term. >> ted koppel, you spent time with henry kissinger in the earlier days who knew something about the big ideas for the world. is this administration getting the big ideas right in the tumult in the middle east? >> i don't think anybody has the big ideas right yet. first of all, let's take a look at what happened not so many years ago, and tom would know more about this than most of us, bob, too, afghanistan. we supported the muja hadin in afghanistan when they were there to drive the soviet union out. we spurted them and found to our chagrin after we supplied them with weapons eventually those weapons were turned against us. one of the men fighting for that group was osama bin laden.
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we had no idea what these libyan rebels are going to end up doing, whom they're going to end up supporting, whether they're going to be good islamist extremists or bad ones. >> let me pick up with bob after the break. i want to talk about the endgame and the political ramifications of all of this. [ male announcer ] if you think "heroes" are only in movies, consider this: over 70% of firefighters are local volunteers... these are our neighbors putting their lives on the line. and when they rely on a battery, there are firefighters everywhere who trust duracell. and now you can join with duracell to help. just buy specially-marked packs & duracell will make a battery donation to local volunteers. these days don't we all need someone to trust...? duracell. trusted everywhere.
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we are back with our roundtable. bob woodward, the big ideas. >> first of all, it's political survival for obama. >> that's the big idea. >> yes. that is the big idea and libya is a hard case. it's one of these 51/49 cases. he's sitting here thinking, what do i have to worry about? and he's thinking about next year when he's running for reelection. he can't get that out of his mind, of course, and i don't think this is the reason he did it, but it's in his mind. and he needs to be two things to run against a republican. he needs to make sure the country is safe, as safe as it's been, no more attacks. he needs to be tough. so he is essentially adopted the tough line for a moment. but to launder savannah's term, this is not just a "tt "sandwiches, there are soond witches like this all over and
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they realize that. i mean, let's go right to it, this is obama's 9/11. not libya but the whole thing, the uprising, the upheaval, the revolution. if he manages it well, keeps the country safe and is tough and determined in focus, this is a big rin for him next year. >> ted, what p the republican opposition? is it principled here or much more fekless and inconsistent? because many of them wanted a no-fly zone, then said it was too little too late. then as newt gingrich said, you shouldn't have intervened oughtr in republican circles or more on the war. >> i don't think you're hearing much detail from the pud atiff republican kantd dats for good reason. they dmoent any more than the rest of us how this thing will turn out and at the moment they have the luxtry of sitting back
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and let things develop before they come out and take a hard position. >> it's interesting, savannah, a state of the union was not that long ago. susan paige in the "usa today" makes an important point. in a sign of how quickly things have changed, consider this. obama's state of the union speech didn't mention egypt. then ruled by mubarak, a u.s. ally for decades who has been ousted or refer to the safety concerns over nuclear power that are sparking headlines around the world. there was nothing about libya or collective bargaining rights. what he he wa out of control. >> right. you see administration aides trying to stick to that schedule. i mean, even the fact that he continued with the latin american trip last week, just defying world events to take them off the agenda, they want to set. they're still doing some of their education initiatives, economic initiatives. they're trying to stick to it, but they can't of course dictate world events and the fact of the matter is the president is
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spentding most of his time these days on these national security issues. >> tom, you're a little bit more sanguine about this analytically. you said off camera there is a natural flow to libya from the president's cairo speesh where he tried to refashion america's image in the rest of the world. >> yes. last week the white house was talking about the slaughter in former hugo slauf area. if he had let that happen, stood back, this would be an enormous blot on the presidency worse because the president would be seen as partly encouraging it. u.s. military is very unhappy with this. a lot of people in the military read my blog and almost every single comment posted on the blog from pimilitary people hav been questioning of this. they hate it, are scared by it, especially when they hear terms like "limited war." that evokes linden johnen going into vietnam. on the other hand, i would say this is very much in the american military tradition, what the american military has done through most of its history, this sort of action.
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this is really just obama going back to an eisenhower-like approach of not trying to get stuck in something but try to affect it. >> but bob you've chronicled this throughout the bush years and now the obama years. the point that you had made before, which is what if things don't go as planned? isn't the legacy of iraq to question the government's best hist case scenarios? >> and i've heard obama say things like, war is hell, it is managing chaos. he clearly does not like war and in his noble acceptance speech he said war is never glorious, it's a manifestation of human folly. and here he is going to war. i think he felt the pressure. and the question is, is he going to be able to extract the u.s. in a way that's honorable and limited, and, as you know, tom, the military people say, you're going to get a general in there, whether it's a nato general or u.s. general, going to be like
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general mcchrystal in afghanistan and say, well, i can solve this problem. how about 20,000 or 30,000 i ha astigmatism. so my old contact lenses wld sometimes move out of place and blur my vision. my eye doctor said there's great news for people with astigmatism. acuvue® oasys for astigmatism. he said it's the only lens of its kind designed to realign naturally with every blink and created with hydraclear® plus. i'm seeing more clearly, crisply, comfortably, all day long. now life doesn't have to be a blur. [ male announcer ] learn more at acuvue.com. acuvue® oasys for astigmatism.
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we're back. just a few minutes with our panel. ted, you wanted to pick up. >> i did. i just wanted to invoke the law of unintended consequences in reference to what bob said. remember somalia. there was n amo hanarnisonth wn esent gor h.w. bush, the elder bush, when he ordered u.s. troops into somalia to avoid the starvation of hundreds of thousands of people. ultimately, that led to a dead ranger being dragged through the streets of mogadishu. we pulled out of somalia, just in panic, and a few weeks later
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when rwanda happened, the united states was so shell shocked that it was unable to do anything and 800,000 people died. >> is the question politically on what's happened on the left, i spoke to dennis kucinich as part of our midweek "meet the press" press pass conversation, and he raised the specter of a primary challenge for the president. take a look. >> should there be an antiwar candidate who challenges president obama in 2012? >> i believe it would be healthy if there was a pro-peace candidate but not just about peace as some airy fairy notion but an active presence of an understanding of the science of human relations and jobs for all, education for all, retirement security. peace is an economic issue as we're finding out, $3 trillion for the war in iraq, $500 million in afghanistan, $100 million a day spent in the
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intervention in rib area. >> as bob reported -- >> you can see it. the irony that of course obama in 2008 was the antiwar candidate and for him to be the person who has brought us into a third conflict in the middle east, i think that is why you see that anguish. he does not want to be in these circumstances but he feels that his hand has been forced. i think it is going to a concern on the left. but what's interesting about what you see in congress is the objections seem to be mostly about process, hey, we weren't consulted, less about substance. that seems to be kind of the bipartisan grumbling over issues of the co-equal branches, the separation of power. >> tom, less than a minute here. >> i was really struck by what you had with the secretary of defense and secretary of state and their comments again and again saying limit war, limited interest. there is a leash on here on the u.s. military that if they get any general getting a whiff of mission creep, they're going to yank on that leash so hard his head is going to come snapping
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all the way back to washington. >> yes. we shouldn't end without mentioning -- you have all of these powder kegs in this area, saudi arabia, this is the country that matters, this is, as you pointed out in talking to gates and clinton, there is a ruptured relationship where it's not a good one. this is a monarchy and they are our oil pipeline. how do we manage that? that's at the top of the list of obama's problems. >> a fragile economic recovery. thank you all very much. we will leave it there. before we go, a quick programming note. full coverage on nbc news and msnbc of the president's speech tomorrow note. be sure to watch nbc "nightly news" as the president sits down with brian williams. check our web site weekly for the midweek press pass. this week i'll sit down with the new chairman of the national committee reince priebus. it will